Sunday, January 11, 2015

beasts of no nation

a recent conversation with my parents left me thinking about a topic which has come up a lot lately.  i have been wondering more and more frequently about my position, so to speak, in the world.  i don't mean this in the way of an adolescent trying to see where they fit in however from the perspective of a person who is generally curious about why people are the way they are.

i left the united states quite a few years ago now and time has finally revealed to me that i have formed a legitimate perspective of an expatriate, one who has left his or her country to become a functioning member of another.  i've been doing this in turkey for the longest stretch of time but i've also done this in other countries like argentina and samoa.  there are some things that i've been paying attention to lately that make me realize my life is a lot different than most other people.  i'm proud of it, i'll say that first, but i have a lot of learning still to do.

when you grow up in the united states you are saturated with american things, western things, first world things, other outdated terminology for the same concept: to be an american.  most people of my like, at least those in my younger years, had this natural disdain for being american.  we hated america in a way that drew us to anarchy.  the seemingly logical acceptance of chaos appealed to us and we loved carving the symbol into our high school desks yet our worlds were so small, what did we really know?

university made me question everything and i tried a lot of new things.  that sentence makes everyone smirk.  i learned how to be more open minded towards people.  i noticed that i was often wrong about people from my first impressions of them.  i stopped judging people who weren't into the same music as me, yet i still criticize people who lack musical curiosity.  i began to carve for myself a character in the society i called home yet for as far back as i can remember i've always wanted to leave.  i wanted to explore and see what life was like in other places.  in a way i knew that my time as an american was coming to a close and i took a very buddhist approach to my imminent changing of lifestyle.  i gave away all of my possessions, instruments and drawing tools mostly, then i downsized my life to a backpack.  then i left.

about nine years pass and i'm here in turkey.  i've been here for a long time.  i'm fascinated by turks and their culture.  it's so crazy to me that life is going here and everywhere always at any given time (i've tried to word that better in my head many times and that's the best i've been able to come up with).  south america also blew my mind.  i always marvel that at any given time life is going on all over the world.  i must add that many people say it's 'a small world'.  it's not a small world.  it's a very, very, very big world.  there are lots of people doing lots of things and it's selfish to think people are exactly the same everywhere, we're just not.  different cultures breed different kinds of people who value different things.  it's not only in the beliefs they are raised with but the things lives they are surrounded by.  we eat different foods and drink water from different sources, it's a cute example yet carries some truth.  we have different looking houses and wear different clothes.  it is true that people are just people but we have many differences that absolutely deserve celebrating.

so i wonder where i fit into all this, this cosmic existentialism crisis i've built for myself.  i don't vote, i'll start with that.  i almost completely missed any news of the 2012 usa presidential election simply by not paying attention.  furthermore, i can't vote here for things which matter to the country i currently live in, i'm not a citizen only a resident.  i'm not that interested in politics but i'm surrounded by constant reminders that i live among people who are very sensitive to the actions of their government.  we've had our classes canceled before due to excessive tear gas seeping into our classroom windows as a result of protests outside.  i do have opinions which i would express through my vote yet i currently am unable to.  

so where does that leave me?  must one have the right to vote to be considered part of a nation?  the answer isn't so obvious for me.  i've created for myself a sort of limbo between cultures.  here in istanbul i'm the tattooed american who speaks turkish.  i get to participate in intellectual conversation and learn about the country first hand through the voices of actual people who are from here, this information is not passed to me through documentaries or books, i gather it for myself through experience.  i work here.  i have an apartment that i pay for with income i've generated from my job right down the street.  

i'm still in limbo though.  i don't care.  i'm not trying to become turkish, i'm only painting a picture of my life out here.  i've spared detail, those details are for me.  many people call me 'free' or özgür’ as they would say in turkish.  i can literally escape at any time and drift off to some other country and teach english over there and carve for myself a new life.  wherever i do end up i work for a few months and save cash in order to fund new adventures and that is fucking cool.  it's the most rock n' roll job in the world.  

some people out here get really into it.  they lose themselves because they know there is a cushion below them that will catch their fall and i've done it too at times.  you can party your ass off until early hours of the morning and show up for work tomorrow on auto pilot because shortly after you will get this 'siesta' between 14:00 and 21:00 to sleep it off.  sucks to be you.  

so what are we?  what am i?  so few people in the world know what it's like to be in this position and it still blows my mind.  i don't really belong anywhere, at least not in the sense of nationalism.  my world is made of the people around me, those who have also picked up and left their worlds behind.  in that sentiment i find comfort in having no answer for my questions.  we are animals of a different kind, beasts of the world.  we are to use this opportunity to first learn and second teach the ways of each other's culture.  we are curious and we can't soothe the itch which wonders what happens on the other side of the hills, across the ocean and beyond the world we know.

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